For many of us, checking our Facebook activity has become a daily routine. Over 133 million people in the US alone are estimated to be subscribed to the social media site. But although it has become a large part of our lives, researchers have discovered that it actually makes us miserable.
A study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, analyzed 82 young Facebook users who used the site frequently – 53 females and 29 males.
Researchers from the University of Michigan adopted an “experience sampling” technique – a way of measuring how people think, feel, and behave in each moment of their daily lives.
Participants were sent a series of text messages every day for 14 days, containing links to an online survey asking them five questions:
- How do you feel right now?
- How worried are you right now?
- How lonely do you feel right now?
- How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?
- How much have you interacted with people “directly” since the last time we asked?
The participants were also asked to rate their level of life satisfaction at the beginning and end of the study.
When participants increased their use of Facebook over the 14-day study period, their state of well-being declined.
The findings also showed that even when the participants increased their interaction with other people away from the site – face-to-face or via phone – they felt better over time.
Ethan Kross, social psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, says:
“On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection.
But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.”
The researchers found no evidence, however, that people used Facebook more when they felt bad – contrary to their predictions.
Additionally, although people were more likely to use the networking site when they were lonely, Facebook use and loneliness were both independent predictors of how happy participants felt.
“This is the advantage of studying Facebook use and well-being as dynamic processes that unfold over time,” says Phillipe Verduyn, post-doctoral fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders in Belgium, and co-author of the study.
“It allows us to draw inferences about the likely causal sequence of Facebook use and well-being.”
The researchers hope to do additional research within a variety of age groups in order to analyze their results further and determine the psychological reasons behind them.
They researchers add:
“Facebook use predicts declines in affective well-being. It is possible that interacting with other people directly either enhances the frequency of such comparisons or magnifies their emotional impact.”
“Examining whether these or other mechanisms explain the relationship between Facebook usage and well-being is important both from a basic science and practical perspective.”
This is not the first study to analyze the psychological and emotional effects of Facebook. A study from the University of Missouri suggested that Facebook activity may be an indicator of person’s psychological health.